Thursday, 13 August 2015

(Tuba) history is made

We don't actually know whether Jamie is the first person with Down's Syndrome to ride a tandem from Land's End to John O' Groats and then play the tuba, but we are going to go out on a limb and claim that he is.

Here is the proof.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Tandem and Tuba Official Prize-Giving

The results are in. It turns out cycling the length of the country doesn't happen all by itself, and I think it's time to admit that we had a lot of help along the way. Big round of applause please...

Gold Awards for cycling the WHOLE way on the SAME saddle

Jamie Carstairs (the man himself, tandem engine and tuba player)
Markus Dell (cousin, filmmaker extraordinaire, did it on a mountain bike)

Gold Awards for cycling the WHOLE way (on various saddles)

Joe Carstairs (little-but-much-taller brother, did it in his sleep, 99% on the same bike)
Harry Carstairs (big brother, probably annoyed everyone by singing the whole way)

Silver Awards for cycling HALF of the way

Mungo Carstairs (dad, the mastermind behind it all, chief navigator and blogger)
Sarah Carstairs (mum, source of common sense, kept show on the road with supreme organisational skills)

Bronze Awards for cycling SOME of the way

5 days: cousin Oliver Dell
3 days: Nelson
1.5 days: Lidia, Habib and Uncle Jamie
1 day: Uncle Richard
And half a day: Katie, Annette, Joe (Stanger) and Susy

Best Aunties Ever

Katie Hill and Susy Carstairs, both of whom kept us going with never ending enthusiasm and some very tasty cooking.

Five Star Hotels

The awards for hospitality go to...

Relatives David and Judith for a comfortable night on our way down to Land's End. Included enough beef to keep us cycling for a week and a laundry service.

John and Helen for lasagne, beds, and an expert local guide. We'd have been very lost in Liverpool without John cycling in front.

Christine for putting us up and feeding the hordes with a delicious casserole in Edinburgh.

Very Special Mentions

Oliver Haas for designing our logo and poster... Granny and Grandpa who showed their support from start to finish... Izzy who cheered us on for three days despite the pouring rain at Taunton... Pat and Adrian who waved us off into the Lake District... Nana who met us in Dalwhinnie... the Todd family for a cheer at John O'Groats... Oz for cooking up the tastiest chicken ever... Amy and Malcom for appearing in St Briavels with ALL of our favourite curries...Callum for feeding our cat (yet again) while we were away...

The Baking Prizes

Best motivational chocolate cake - Louise Ritchie and her girls
Most delicious flapjacks - threeway tie between Penny, Esme and Susy!

Commendable Cups of Tea

No adventure would be possible without a good brew now and again! Due credit goes to...
Jan and Oliver Haas
Colin and Katrina at their Morangie B&B in Tain
Bruce and Dorothy Field 
and the man who gave us some hot water (it's the thought that counts)

...and simply EVERYONE who spared us a moment by waving a flag, tooting a horn, donating to the YMPA, watching the videos and even just reading this blog.  Thank you to every single person who made our journey from Land's End to John O'Groats a reality, a pleasure, and a success.

PS. I hear that footage of possibly the first person ever to play the tuba sitting on a bench at John O'Groats is on its way to you SOON!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Video 8 - Northern Scotland

This is the penultimate video, documenting our two days of cycling between Aviemore and Helmsdale. Finally, a highland cow!


Cameraman Markus is almost back in Plymouth again. End to end, and back again in 12 hours on the train. He has plenty of footage from yesterday, and we can't wait to see the final video once he's had time to edit it.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

End of the Road

We've made it. Here are the four End-to-Enders - Jamie, Joe, Harry and Markus!

And just for comparison, here's us in 2007 (Jamie, Sarah, Harry, 'hoodie' Joe)!

There's plenty more evidence coming up before we sign off the blog, but right now it's time for feet up and some fish 'n' chips!

Friday, 7 August 2015

One more pin

A long but scenic day today, weaving through Alness, Invergordon, Tain (with a welcome tea break at Morangie B&B), Dornoch and Golspie (second tea break!) before finally reaching Helmsdale at about 7:30pm - only to be surprised by Graham and Sheila (aka Granny and Grandpa) who have flown up to Inverness to see us complete the journey they cycled themselves in 1991!

We've heard the waves crash into the cliffs of Cornwall, seen the ponies wander across the hills of Dartmoor; we've been through the orchards of Somerset and passed through countless farms and forests. We've been soaked by the rain in Cheddar Gorge and battled the wind by Crosby beach. We've pedalled our way along every kind of road, from canal tow paths and disused railways to winding lanes and bustling carriageways. We've smelt the bracken of the Scottish Borders and the sea air of the Cromarty Firth. 

Isn't it amazing where a bike and your own two legs can take you?

It's a blur of memories now, and all that remains is 55 miles of Northern Scotland's heather-clad hills. As Jamie likes to say, it's been an "epic journey".

Video 7 - The Cairngorms

Saddle up for video seven, in which we venture north of our home in Perth and try some challenging highland passes on our way through Blair Atholl and Aviemore. Be warned - no food or shelter for 30km! It's worth it for the view at Loch Morlich though...

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Photos, Perth to Culbokie

The next video diary is almost ready, but until then here is some photo evidence!

Markus celebrated his 21st in Perth, where Louise brought Jamie this amazing cake!

Another puncture stalls us on the way over Drumochter

Slochd summit felt tame after Drumochter's 1508 feet

Jamie takes a look at the Old Packhorse Bridge for which Carrbridge was named

Beyond the Great Glen

Sunshine and following winds took us from Edinburgh to Perth, despite the hard slog of climbing over Hill of Cleish and up to Glenfarg.  A night at home (and celebration of Markus's 21st birthday!) was followed by a hectic morning of repacking, and after a send-off from friends and well-wishers (and see tomorrow's Perthshire Advertiser!), the shortest ride of our route brought us to Blair Atholl and a very welcoming B&B.

Wednesday (day 17) brought the crossing of the Drumochter Pass - our highest point at 1500 feet, and a serious matter in bad weather, but passed safely despite a few punctures. We met a tandem en route to Land's End, on a fast 13 day schedule. Thanks to John's tip-off we bypassed the road closure near Ruthven Barracks, and had a lovely finish on the back road from Feshiebridge to Aviemore (but no osprey spotted on this occasion).

Thursday dawned wet but soon cleared up, and the climb up to Slochd Summit was accomplished. Cycle Route 7 down to Inverness took us past the Cairns of Clava, a most interesting prehistoric site which none of us had visited before. Another long day's riding ended at Netherton Farm where we were treated to a spectacular view across the Cromarty Firth, and an even more spectacular dinner prepared by Oz and Susy.

Whisper it: we are quite tired. We didn't manage to squeeze any rest days into our schedule, and it is taking its toll. But with only two days left, and the roadsigns showing 100 miles to go...we dare to hope and believe we are going to make it.

Video 6 - the Scottish Borders

Follow us as we enter home territory (Scotland!), have two beautiful days cycling through the peaceful border country, cross the Firth of Forth and make it home to Perth!

 Of course, we can't stop yet. But only five days more should take us to our final destination.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Home and Away

Tomorrow night (Monday) we shall be at home in Perth. We have carefully designed a short ride the next day (a mere 36 miles to Blair Atholl) to allow a bit of a lie in and sort out of odd socks. If anyone wants to wave us off on Tuesday, we are aiming to set off from the North Inch (War Memorial) at 12 noon or thereby. You'd be very welcome to cycle with us for a while, in the direction of Pitcairngreen / Bankfoot / Dunkeld and points north. It looks like we shall have a mighty wind behind our backs (less good for those turning back)!

Today's route took quiet roads, through Innerleithen and up the B709 to a lunch spot with a spectacular view to Edinburgh from the escarpment of the Moorfoot hills. A kilogram of Dairy Milk was added to our emergency supplies from the Coop (well it was reduced to clear).

Video 5 - The Lake District

Episode five of the video series follows us into and through the beautiful English Lake District. Enjoy the ride as we come within bowshot of the Scottish border. Passports not required (yet!).

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Ettrick Valley via Tibet

Tandem and Tuba are officially in Scotland!

The Lake District seemed to whizz by in a blur of misty crags with Jamie powering up the hills. Dropping down into the borders, we were glad to be away from the queues of caravans and amazed to find the entire length of England behind us.

Each day I seem to find myself thinking "today is the nicest day yet". But today was surely the nicest day yet. A cooling breeze helped ease us up deserted roads through wide open country and swathes of green forest. We even had a Buddhist temple to stop at for lunch.

A sudden downpour threatened to ruin the fun, but we soon arrived at our yurt in the Ettrick valley. This cosy, glorified tent in the middle of nowhere makes a change at least! (Thankfully it's too cold for the midges.)

Snacks at the end of Thirlmere, Lake District

Empty Scotland

Video 4 - Lancashire

The next instalment of the video diary. Watch to see us cruising over the Mersey to say goodbye to the Welsh borders!